Suicide attack on Pakistani police; 22 dead
Friday, 11 January 2008

Reuters, LAHORE, Pakistan

A suicide bomber walked up to policemen stationed outside the High Court in the Pakistani city of Suicide attack on Pakistani police; 22 dead Lahore on Thursday and blew himself up killing 22 people, most of them police, officials said.

Pakistan has seen a wave of bomb attacks in recent months, many of them suicide attacks on members of the security forces, but there had been none in Lahore, capital of Punjab province.

"Most of the victims are policemen. It was a suicide attack," said senior city government official Mian Ejaz. He said 60 people had been wounded.

City police chief Malik Mohammad Iqbal told Geo Television that all but one of the victims were policemen, who had gathered outside the court in central Lahore ahead of a protest rally by lawyers.

Police constable Jameel Ahmed said the attacker was a man aged about 25 who had arrived outside the court on a motorbike.

"He parked his bike and walked to the police and blew himself up," Ahmed said.

Television pictures showed wounded policemen being hauled onto stretchers and taken away by ambulance. Police caps, boots and riot shields littered the road.

Hundreds of people have been killed in suicide blasts in recent months.

Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack as she left an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Dec. 27.

More than 20 bystanders were killed in that attack, which led to the postponement of a Jan. 8 general election meant to complete a transition to civilian rule in the nuclear-armed U.S. ally.

"BUILDING SHOOK"

The elections, for a lower house of parliament, from where a new prime minister and government will be drawn, and assemblies in Pakistan's four provinces, have been postponed to Feb. 18.

But analysts and some politicians fear President Pervez Musharraf will seize the opportunity to put off the elections again, citing violence, with the party that backs him facing losses in the vote, especially after Bhutto's killing.

Mohammad Arshad, an 18-year-old clerk, working in a lawyer's office across the road from the blast, said he saw blood and bits of flesh sticking to the broken windows of his building.

"The whole building shook and when I ran out I saw bodies lying all around. There was flesh and blood everywhere and people were crying for help," Arshad said.

The pulse of Pakistani politics beats strongest in Lahore, a city that is home to many of the country's elite and families of the army's officer class.

Punjab is Pakistan's most populous and richest province. It also has about half of the seats in the lower house National Assembly.

Musharraf and caretaker Prime Minister Mohammadmian Soomro condemned what they called a terrorist attack and ordered authorities to hunt down those behind it.

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